Investigation of a case of suspected transfusion-transmitted malaria

TitleInvestigation of a case of suspected transfusion-transmitted malaria
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsAnand A, Mace KE, Townsend RL, Madison-Antenucci S, Grimm KE, Espina N, Losco P, Lucchi NW, Rivera H, Breen K, Tan KR, Arguin PM, White JL, Stramer SL
Date PublishedSept


Transfusion-transmitted malaria (TTM) is a rare occurrence with serious consequences for the recipient. A case study is presented as an example of best practices for conducting a TTM investigation.

A 15-year-old male with a history of sickle cell disease developed fever after a blood transfusion. He was diagnosed with Plasmodium falciparum malaria and was successfully treated. The American Red Cross, New York State Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated the eight donors who provided components to the transfusion. The investigation to identify a malaria-positive donor included trace back of donors, serologic methods to identify donor(s) with a history of malaria exposure, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, microsatellite analysis to identify the parasite in a donor and match its genotype to the parasite in the recipient, and reinterview of all donors to clarify malaria risk factors.

One donor had evidence of infection with P. falciparum by PCR, elevated antibody titers, and previously undisclosed malaria risk factors. Reinterview revealed that the donor immigrated to the United States from Togo just short of 3 years before the blood donation. The donor was treated for asymptomatic low parasitemia infection.

This investigation used standard procedures for investigating TTM but also demonstrated the importance of applying sensitive laboratory techniques to identify the infected donor, especially a donor with asymptomatic infection with low parasitemia. Repeat interview of all donors identified as having contributed to the transfused component provides complementary epidemiologic information to confirm the infected donor.

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